Remember the last time you went out eating with your co-workers? Your decision to eat those burger and fries may have been influenced by your co-workers.
Don’t believe your colleagues can have that much influence over your diet? Well, a recent study showed that a person’s food choice tend to mirrors his or her social circle.
Six Thousand Employees Surveyed
Researchers at the Mongan Institute Health Policy Research Center studied 6,000 employees at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH). The employees were from diverse background. They monitored what the employees ate at hospital system’s seven cafeterias over two years. The cafeterias had a lableing system: green for healthy, yellow for less healthy, and red for unhealthy.
Since the MGH employees usually used their ID cards to pay at the hospitals’ cafeterias, the researchers could collect data on the employees’ specific food purchases, and when and where they purchased the food. They also contacted over 1,000 MGH employees to confirm whether someone was a dining partner.
In the end, they analyzed over 3 million encounters between pairs of employees making cafeteria purchases together. They found that the food choices by those who were eating together was more alike than different. This effect was even stronger for healthy foods.
Their study was published in the journal Nature Human Behaviour.
Why then do people tend to choose similar foods when eating together? Peer pressure could be one explanation.
For example, if you’re out eating with someone who chooses a salad and avoids sodas, chances are your choice of foods will be more healthy.
Try to Make the Healthy Food Choices
In a way, this can be positively applied. When going out to eat, if you choose healthy foods, then not only are you benefiting yourself, but you may also be helping your colleagues out.
So why not next time when you go out with your office buddies choose something healthy and avoid the junk and fatty foods. On the flip side, when you’re out eating, pay attention to your colleagues’ food choices and make sure they’re not influencing you to choose those burgers, fries and shakes.